NEW LAW – Paid Family and Medical Leave Coming to Massachusetts

On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed House Bill 4640 (the so-called “Grand Bargain”) into law.  Among other things, this new law will bring Paid Family and Medical Leave to Massachusetts starting on January 1, 2021.

Who is eligible to take Paid Family and Medical Leave?

This new leave law covers nearly all private sector employees.

What leave benefits are available?

Under this new leave law, starting January 1, 2021, eligible employees can take the following leave in a benefit year:

  • Up to 20 weeks of job-protected paid medical leave to care for their own serious health condition;
  • Up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave

o    to care for a family member with a serious health condition,

o    to bond with the employee’s child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or the first 12 months after the placement of the child for adoption or foster care with the employee, or

o    because of any qualifying exigency arising out of an employee’s family member being active duty or notification of an impending call or order to be in the Armed Forces; and

  • Up to 26 weeks of job-protected paid family leave to care for a covered servicemember.

This leave entitlement is subject to a combined maximum of twenty-six weeks of total leave in a year, which means that employees cannot take more than 26 weeks of paid family and medical leave in one benefit year.

Does Paid Family and Medical Leave run concurrently with federal FMLA or other mandated leaves of absence?

Yes.  Paid family and medical leave will run concurrently with both federal FMLA and Massachusetts Parental Leave.  However, if an employee takes Paid Family and Medical Leave but, at the time, is ineligible for federal FMLA may still take FMLA in the same benefit year, but only if the employee is eligible to take FMLA.

Is there a waiting period for taking Paid Family and Medical Leave?

In most circumstances, there is a 7-day waiting period before an employee can take paid family and medical leave.  During that period, employees may use accrued sick leave or vacation pay or other paid leave.

The only exception is where an employee wants to take medical leave during pregnancy or recovery from childbirth.  The employee will be able to take paid family and medical leave if the employee’s need for leave is immediate and the employee provides documentation from her medical provider.

What are the employee’s return to work rights?

Following the employee’s return from leave, the employee must be restored to the same or equivalent positions that he/she previously held.

How is the Paid Family and Medical Leave program funded?

The program will be funded through a payroll tax, which will be split between employers and employees.

Employees will be required to cover 100% of the contributions for family leave and 40% of the contributions for personal medical leave.

Employers with over 25 employees will be responsible for paying 60% of the contributions for personal medical leave.

Employers with 25 or less employees will not be required to contribute towards personal medical leave, but they will still be required to deduct the payroll tax from employees’ wages.

These contributions will begin on July 1, 2019.

Key Terms

  • Family member: The spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or parent of a spouse or domestic partner of the employee; a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when he/she was a minor child; or a grandchild, grandparent or sibling of the employee.
  • Benefit year: the 52-consecutive week period beginning on the Sunday preceding the first day the protected leave begins
  • Serious health condition: An illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves

o    Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical facility; or

o    Continuing treatment by a health care provider.

  • “Qualifying exigency: A need arising out of a covered individual’s family member’s active duty service or notice of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces, including, but not limited to

o    Providing for the care or other needs of the military member’s child or other family member,

o    Making financial or legal arrangements for the military member,

o    Attending counseling,

o    Attending military events or ceremonies,

o    Spending time with the military member during a rest and recuperation leave or following return from deployment or

o    Making arrangements following the death of the military member.

Take Home for Employers

While these leave rights are several years away, all Massachusetts employers need to start preparing for paid family and medical leave.  In the coming months, we expect that there will be guidance released to help employers prepare for this leave.